Nitric oxide signaling in colon cancer chemoprevention

Mutat Res. 2004 Nov 2;555(1-2):107-19. doi: 10.1016/j.mrfmmm.2004.05.022.


Nitric oxide (NO) is a pleiotrophic regulator, pivotal to numerous biological processes, including vasodilation, neurotransmission, and macrophage-mediated immunity. The highly reactive free radicals, produced by NO synthases (NOS) have been implicated in the modulation of carcinogenesis. Over-expression of inducible NOS (iNOS), a common phenomenon during chronic inflammatory conditions, generates sustainable amounts of NO, that its reactive intermediates are mutagenic, causing DNA damage or impairment of DNA repair, has been well established in carcinogenesis. Recent studies also implicate NO as having a key signaling molecule that regulates processes of tumorigenesis. Increased expression of iNOS has been observed in tumors of the colon, lung, oropharynx, reproductive organs, breast, and central nervous system besides its occurrence in chronic inflammatory diseases. Progression of a large majority of human and experimental colon tumors appears to progress by NO resulting from stimulation of proinflammatory cytokines, and inactivation (nitrosylation) of p53 mediated caspase activities in the tumors, whereas in some cases it associated with induction of apoptosis and tumor regression. This dichotomy is largely explained by the complexity of signaling pathways in tumor cells, that respond to NO very differently depending on its concentration. p53 mutation, functional loss, activation, and inactivation of apoptotic proteins all have been linked with NO resistance and dependence. Evidence from both in vitro and in vivo experiments support that NO and its reactive metabolite peroxynitrite stimulate COX-2 activity leading generation of tumor growth enhancing prostaglandins. Thus, NO mediated signaling can augment the tumor growth and metastasis by promoting invasive and angiogenic properties of tumor cells, which includes triggering and activation of COX-2. Thus, developing selective inhibitors of iNOS and NO-releasing agents may lead to important strategies for chemoprevention of colon cancer. Chemoprevention studies at preclinical level with several selective inhibitors of iNOS in both chemically and transgenic models of colon cancer are encouraging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Apoptosis
  • Chemoprevention
  • Colonic Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Colonic Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects*


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Nitric Oxide
  • NOS2 protein, human
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II